It’s Day 13 of Frocktober 2016 and I’ve worn 15 frocks thus far. All of them donated by brilliant businesses, big and small, for me to wear and then auction off to raise money for the OCRF. The OCRF? The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.
Who are they and what do they do?
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death of all gynaecological cancers. Ovarian cancer is an insidious disease that often strikes without warning. Across Australia, one woman dies every ten hours from this disease.
The key to changing this statistic and giving women with ovarian cancer a better long-term outlook is early detection. However, no simple or effective early screening method currently exists. Which means most women diagnosed are already in the advanced stages of the disease.
The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) was established in May 2000 by Co-Founders gynaecological oncology specialist, Associate Professor Thomas Jobling and business woman, Liz Heliotis. The team is committed to furthering research into this currently not-well-understood disease. Through our study, it will be possible to develop a test to allow for early detection. The second important aim of the Foundation’s research is to improve treatment methods, so that even those diagnosed in the later stages of the disease will enjoy a greatly enhanced future.
To help achieve our research goals and to save women’s lives, the OCRF needs the financial support of the community. We can only change the statistics with your help.
You don’t need to be a scientist to make a difference. Research is the answer. (OCRF)
What is Frocktober?
Frocktober is an annual philanthropic campaign held each October that is accessible to all Australians passionate about women’s health. The campaign invites anyone to take on one or all of the Frocktober challenges (yes, the boys too!) or simply sponsor/donate to those friends, family and colleagues who support the campaign. It’s all about having some fun with fashion with heart. (Frocktober)
Why is this important to me?
I lost my mum 15 years ago to this cancer. She was 56, I was 22, my brothers even younger. The vagueness of the signs of Ovarian Cancer meant it was not detected until it was Stage IV, aka too late. Unfortunately, this is the case for many, many women. The signs which include:
- Vague abdominal pain or pressure
- Feeling of abdominal fullness, gas, nausea, indigestion – different to your normal sensations
- Sudden abdominal swelling, weight gain or bloating
- Persistent changes in bowel or bladder patterns
- Low backache or cramps
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Pain during intercourse
- Unexplained weight loss
are often put down to other causes, or are so vague that they are ignored. By the time the doctor becomes involved it is often too late. My mum and dad had not long separated when she was diagnosed which combined with her age meant the signs were put down to stress, hormones and unknown causes for some time. Luckily she was persistent as she kept pushing for answers, although when received they weren’t the ones we wanted.
I remember the day she called to tell me clearly. I was 19, I was at the footy with friends. I remember going into uni on the Monday and using the computers to search for information. I had overheard the words Stage IV but nobody wanted to be anything but positive at the beginning obviously. So I looked up Stage IV-basically incurable. I was devastated. I had nobody to turn to. I didn’t want mum to know I knew, I didn’t want to tell my brothers-they were both younger than me so I had to be the strong one and mum didn’t want dad involved. It was scary, I pretended it wasn’t happening. I went to as many appointments and treatments as I could between uni and part-time work and we pretended like she would beat the cancer. And for a long time, mum fought, and fought hard. She had good days and she had bad. The bad for me was obviously not as bad as it was for her, but learning how to inject your mum with morphine at 20 is not something I would recommend, unless you’re a nurse. Not fun. She tried to talk to me about life, what would happen after, her life, things I so so wish I had wanted to discuss now, things I wish I had learnt about her-like her youth, her hopes and dreams, her pregnancies, her labours, her experiences as a parent, things I will never know now.
There is much to regret, but regrets are pointless. They won’t bring mum back. They won’t change anything. So instead, I choose to raise money for the OCRF, in the hopes they can develop an early detection test. This is somewhat selfish, as I’m doing it for myself in part. I don’t want to become a statistic, a victim of this cruel cancer. And I don’t want my babies navigating life without their mum. Not having a mum with me anymore is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face, and it’s ongoing. Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me…yes I’m a mum and my babies love to celebrate me but it’s also a harsh reminder that I no longer have my mum. I don’t have a mum to ask questions of, to call when I’m having a shitty day, to use and abuse as a babysitter, to have coffee with and go shopping with. My babies don’t get to know their gran, she doesn’t get to know them, or my husband or any of our partners or children. It totally sucks.
So let’s give to the OCRF so they may develop an early detection test and save lives. Save kids growing up without their mum, save husbands/partners growing old without their wives/partners, let children have their nana/gran/nonna to come to grandparents day at school, to babysit, to have them for sleepovers and to spoil them rotten. Because currently, we are losing one woman every TEN hours to Ovarian Cancer. This is beyond terrible statistics, and these women are more than just statistics, they are my mum, your mum, your friend’s mum. They are leaving behind loved ones, family and friends, grandbabies they will never know, because there is no early detection test. Pap smears do not detect Ovarian Cancer. Only having your symptoms thoroughly checked by a sympathetic GP/gyno will detect it. Know your body, listen to your body and if you think there is a chance something is wrong, persist. Make them run tests. The tests may not be pleasant but until we can develop a method of early detection that is readily available like mammograms and pap smears, they are all we have to work with. I have yearly ultrasounds, but they alone are not conclusive, they will show a tumor when it is sizeable enough to be detected by such imaging but they do not give definitive diagnoses.
So, we need to raise money. Lots and lots of it. I sent out about a billion emails earlier this year asking businesses big and small to be a part of my #frockoffovca campaign. And I had so many positive responses. Small businesses in particular are bloody brilliant. They are often mums, they get the need to raise these vital funds. They are generous. As are many big businesses. I have been beyond lucky to receive so so many donations. I have over 40 frocks, I have jewelry/watches, I have vouchers, I have cushions and I am going to auction it all off with all proceeds going to the OCRF. I have also received some donations from some beautiful people. If you would like to donate, you may do so here:
My goal this year is $3000. Double that of last year. I hope to smash it. My gorgeous girlfriend, through her workplace, has also organised a fundraising event so if you’re in my vicinity or would like to be on October 27th you must come along. Details can be found here. Or ring, email, message me for further info. My auction will take place on October 30th on my instagram account @frock_ovarian_cancer so make sure you follow that and keep an eye out for details and all the amazing goodies.
This month brings out my worst, I’m ashamed and not ashamed to say. I get highly emotional as frocking up every day makes me think and remember, not only my mum but all the other mums and women who have lost their lives to Ovarian Cancer and who are currently undergoing treatment for it. I cry a lot, I get cranky but most of all I get filled with motivation to do some good. For some good to come out of our loss. Our mum may not have been able to have been saved, but hopefully we can save other women. Hopefully my babies don’t grow up without their mum and yours don’t either. Ladies, I ask you to share all my annoying links to events and donation portals just the once. Someone you know may want to join the fight to save ovaries and #frockoffovca.
Thank you for reading this novella. It’s terrible disjointed and rambling and emotional but that’s me! Big love xx